100 Best Restaurants 2008: Obelisk

No. 16: Obelisk

Cuisine: Slightly modern takes on regional Italian as delicious as if you were eating them in Emilia-Romagna. The handwritten menu, $65 for five courses, changes daily.

Mood: A sparely appointed townhouse with the feel of a low-key dinner party. This is not the place to discuss family or state secrets.

Best for: Diners as passionate about things Italian and artisanal—the burrata is shipped in daily from Puglia—as chef/owner Peter Pastan, who travels to Italy yearly in search of the new and wonderful, and anyone weary of impersonal restaurant experiences.

Best dishes: Antipasti such as squid stewed with chard; airy fried rice balls with mozzarella; burrata drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with cracked pepper and fleur de sel; plump house-made pork sausages with pickled onions. Rustic plates such as roasted quail with spinach; a luscious chocolate pudding with fresh whipped cream; Sicilian breakfast, a layered parfait of grape granita and yogurt cream with a miniature turban of brioche.

Insider tips: The antipasti and cheese courses are the highlights of this generous meal, and desserts are full of whimsy. By comparison, main courses can seem uninspired, so load up early and save room for the finish.

Service: •••

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.